Minister of Tourism, Hon. Edmund Bartlett has invited the powerful Insurance Association of the Caribbean (IAC) to partner with tourism to build resilience to secure sustainable growth, particularly within the tourism and agricultural industries.
With Caribbean tourism set to earn an estimated US$50 billion by 2026, Minister Bartlett said about US$3.89 billion of that amount will go into travel insurance for the region.
He also noted that at the rate of growth envisaged for tourism, “we are going to be employing 1.34 million more workers across the region during that period, bringing the tourism workforce in the Caribbean region up to 2.3 million by 2026.”
Minister Bartlett’s address to the opening session of the 41st Annual Caribbean Insurance Conference yesterday (June 5) at the Hyatt Ziva Rose Hall, Montego Bay, centred on the theme, “The Insurance Industry’s Role in the Pursuit for Sustainability.”
Noting that tourism and agriculture were the two sectors most vulnerable to climate action, he said, they were also characterized by having 67 percent of their workforce being at the lowest end of the employment stream “and therefore when disruptions hit, those workers are among the last to recover, if at all.”
In a challenge to the insurance sector, Minister Bartlett questioned, “How do we find a tool to offer that peace of mind to those workers who are so vulnerable and so ill-equipped and prepared?” He said borrowing was not the answer when they were already devastated “so we need to find a tool that says here is a relief, something that you can have while you get your act together.”
In that vein, he said he was prepared to emulate Jamaica’s Tourism Workers Pension Scheme, which involves two major insurance companies in Jamaica, as “it is my intention to drive this tourism workers pension plan across the Caribbean so that every single worker in tourism would become members of this pension plan and generate, perhaps, the largest pool of domestic savings possibly in the history of the Caribbean.”
Mr. Bartlett said he was prepared to sit with the insurance sector to devise a tool to give workers some peace of mind, being mindful that there would be more disasters, including hurricanes and floods, depriving people of their homes and farm plots.
“Let’s think of how we can do it. I have a Tourism Enhancement Fund and there’s the hotel associations; let’s have a meeting and sit down to work through it. You are the ones with the ideas so let’s think out of the box and find a tool that enables whether we’re going to bundle the workers together or we’re going to treat them as companies, or whatever, so as to make the rates affordable.”
He said he would be willing to contribute to ensure its affordability “to protect the workers of the two most vulnerable industries in the Caribbean, tourism and agriculture.